A longer, but perhaps more honest, title for the new film Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker might be Low Stakes Space Quibbles: Please Stop Yelling at Us, as the entire film views like an apology to fans upset by the last Star Wars film’s attempts to let girls play too. And part of that apology seems to include giving The Last Jedi’s breakout star Kelly Marie Tran as little to do in The Rise of Skywalker as possible. But according to the film’s creators, it’s not a low stakes way to appease fans riled up at having an Asian actress participate in the franchise. It’s actually Carrie Fisher’s fault.
In a recent interview with Awards Daily, Rise of Skywalker screenwriter Chris Terrio said that he and director J.J. Abrams totally wanted to have Tran do lots of acting but that diva Carrie Fisher wouldn’t cooperate, posthumously, in the CGI footage:
“One of the reasons that Rose has a few less scenes than we would like her to have has to do with the difficulty of using Carrie’s footage in the way we wanted to,” Terrio said. “We wanted Rose to be the anchor at the rebel base who was with Leia. We thought we couldn’t leave Leia at the base without any of the principals who we love, so Leia and Rose were working together.”
In the Star Wars universe Tran’s character, Rose Tico, is a Resistance engineer whose sister Paige was killed early in The Last Jedi. In that film, Rose plays a pivotal role in a high stakes mission. It was Tran’s first film role and as a thank you for her efforts, she was harassed off social media by a subset of racist Star Wars fanatics who get angry when women in the films do more than wait to be rescued in gold bikinis.
Instead of writing new scenes that would give Tran’s character at least as satisfying a resolution as the one they gave to the robots, when they realized the CGI wasn’t going to work out, the men in charge chose to simply have her run around and gape at all the scary space tension for a few seconds every thirty minutes or so.
Maybe Tran’s exclusion from the film can be chalked up to the difficulty of editing in the sorely missed Carrie Fisher as General Leia. But these are men who are widely considered to be the best in the business at creating big-budget, widely appealing franchises. If they had really wanted to give Tran something to do, it seems like they must have been good enough at their jobs to have found a way. More likely, the narrative is the result of a studio attempting to remove any Star Wars elements that get the “fans” riled up, to avoid controversy and maximize profits.
Or perhaps, optimistically, it’s simply a side effect of putting an epic narrative into the hands of an all-white, predominately male writing and production team that didn’t quite realize the audience would miss her. But sure, go ahead and blame Carrie Fisher.
Update, December 30, 6:30 p.m.: In a statement to Vulture, Terrio has clarified that when he blamed excluding Tran from the movie on the “difficulty of using Carrie’s footage in the way we wanted to,” he didn’t mean any scenes presumably featuring Tran actually made it into the final draft of the film’s script:
“I badly misspoke if in an earlier statement I implied that any cut scenes between Rose and Leia were the fault of our VFX team and the wizards at ILM,” Terrio said. “In that earlier interview, I was referring to a specific scene in which Leia’s emotional state in Episode VII did not seem to match the scene we wrote for use in Episode IX, and so it was cut at the script stage before the VFX work was done. If we had chosen to use the scene, ILM would have made it look perfect. They always do. ILM performed actual miracles at every stage of the creative process in Episode IX. I remain in awe of their work.”